Director Sofia Coppola surprises everyone with "The Virgin Suicides," the film of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel about five young ill-fated sisters.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
When Sofia Coppola landed the key role as Mary Corleone in the final chapter of her father Francis Ford Coppola's legendary "Godfather" trilogy, the cries of nepotism could be heard as far away as the Hollywood Hills. Overt
familial favoritism notwithstanding, the greater outcry was that Sofia simply wasn't good enough and for many, singlehandedly ruined the picture.
In the ten years since "The Godfather: Part III," the 29-year-old actress has had few film roles she's appeared as Cindy in "Inside Monkey Zetterland," as herself in Dad's documentary "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's
Apocalypse," and as Sache in last year's "Star Wars" prequel, to name the sum total. In short, she's done very little and failed to make much of an impression.
|THE VIRGIN SUICIDES|
|Written and directed by: Sofia Coppola.|
Adapted from the novel by: Jeffrey Eugenides.
Cast: James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, Josh Hartnett, Hanna R. Hall, Chelse Swain, A.J. Cook, Leslie Hayman, Danny DeVito.
Related links: All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
But with "The Virgin Suicides," all that is about to change.
Switching to behind the camera as both writer and director, Coppola may well have found her niche. Skeptics will be quick to question just how much of the finished product is Sofia's handiwork, given her bloodline and
insider connections, but the film plays very much unlike a Francis Ford Coppola movie and in some ways that's a finer compliment than calling her a chip off the old block.
"The Virgin Suicides" is a deliberately paced (or "slow" if you're predisposed to cynicism) gothic fantasy about the ill-fated Lisbon sisters Cecilia, Bonnie, Lux, Mary, and Therese told from the viewpoint of the neighborhood
boys who worshipped them from afar. It's a fragile and delicate affair, as fragile and delicate as the teenage female condition it examines. The film shimmers, breathes, and moves both on air and with Air, since it's scored by the
French avant-pop duo with a sparing insistence.|
The film is all the better for posing more questions than answers, since its theme the universal dilemma of young women struggling with their blossoming sexuality is not easily concluded. The five young actresses, among them
Kirsten Dunst as the bold Lux, are fabulous, as are veterans James Woods and a surrealistically frumpy-looking Kathleen Turner as their parents. Woods, especially, is remarkable since he rarely plays soft and his Mr. Lisbon is
a treasure of paternal quirks and insecurities.
Behind the lens, Coppola's direction is sure-footed, her pacing perfect. And the power, wit, and calculated efficacy of her insightful screenplay (based on the novel by Jeffrey Eugenides) can best be summed up by a single line
of dialogue. Shortly after her first failed suicide attempt, the youngest Lisbon daughter tells a male caregiver who falsely assumes that everything is OK now: "Obviously, doctor, you've never been a 13-year-old girl."
| ||Director Sofia Coppola|
Watching the splendid "The Virgin Suicides," it's quite obvious that Sofia Coppola has.
|MAY 23, 2000|
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